Wednesday, June 8, 2011

New Release Review: Bridesmaids (Paul Feig, 2011)

I really need to trust my original instincts on films more often. For quite a while I had no intentions of seeing Bridesmaids, but after a string of glowing reviews, and claims that it was one of the funniest films to hit screens in a decade, my interest was piqued. When an opportunity presented itself to see this film, I willingly attended. What resulted was one of my most painful and frustrating experiences at the cinema this year.

Perhaps it takes the experience of being a Maid of Honour, or the stresses of marriage to appreciate how out-of-control these women get, but to enjoy Bridesmaids, I suggest you eliminate all rational thinking. The film has an unendurable quality, and very often tests your viewing patience. I found the film, overall, to be little more than the predictable standard romantic comedy/drama, but riddled with a series of extended crude gags that just didn't know when to stop. At least they give you something to discuss following the film, because I walked out trying to hide my feelings of bitterness and disappointment.

Bridesmaids centres on Annie (the talented Kristen Wiig) and the series of disastrous circumstances that follow her assignment as Maid of Honour to her recently engaged best friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph). Annie and Lillian have been best friends since their childhood days in Milwaukee, where they still reside only a few blocks apart. It is evident from the early moments of this film that Annie's life is not ready to support this challenge.

As the wedding preparations commence, Annie's personal life is quickly falling apart. Her formerly successful cake shop has recently closed down, forcing her to take a job at a jewellery store, where she functions as an ineffective saleswoman. She is being kicked out of her hellhole apartment, and constantly divulges in unromantic sex as a third string booty call to an arrogant asshole (John Hamm). Struggling to pay her rent, she faces budgetary restrictions and continues to be bettered by Helen Harris (Rose Byrne), the wealthy wife of Lillian's fiance's boss and new close friend, who is set on making her own lavish dreams for Lillian's wedding come to fruition.

Annie is also introduced to Lillian's other Bridesmaids; Becca (Ellie Kemper), a meek and innocent newlywed, Megan (Melissa McCarthy), the rough and aggressive sister of the groom, and Rita (Wendy McLendon-Covey), a relative dissatisfied with her marriage and three sons. She tries to do her best for Lillian, but every attempt to make the pre-wedding events an exciting affair, ends in disaster. Projectile vomiting, severe intoxication on an aeroplane, a battle with a giant cookie and a ban from the wedding ensue for Annie, as her friendship with Lillian takes on tumultuous new lows. The only bright spot in her life is her blossoming friendship with an Irish cop (Chris O'Dowd), but Annie can't even grasp onto that.

Bridesmaids is way too long. There is at least 20-30 minutes that could be cut from this film. There are far too many moments that are inconsequential and have no bearing on the story, and the drama is hardly engaging. Kristen Wiig, a long time regular on SNL and in supporting roles in an assortment of crude comedies (most recently Paul), is now a lead. She embraces the challenge wholeheartedly, and is actually pretty effective. Her often-sympathetic performance is genuinely touching at times, but there is a reason why she keeps hitting 'rock bottom'. While Lillian and Helen are given some attention in the latter third of the film, Annie is so prominent, and the film so long, that the breadth of her comedy is exhausted. Essentially, she runs out of ways to entertain, and receives little help from the other women.

What makes it so frustrating was that there was no reason why some of these extended gags had to happen. While I admired Wiig's performance, her screenplay fails to hide the intention of clumping a bunch of funny women together and throwing in as many gags as possible. The main problem is that it is taken too far. It ceases to remain funny, and it becomes irritable. Who can possibly agree with the inclusion of that sequence near the end when Annie recklessly drives by Rhodes in an attempt to catch his attention? It's totally unnecessary. It is guilty on more than one occasion; the engagement speeches, the telephone conferencing, the dress fitting and the aeroplane sequence also. While a revolutionary rejection of masculine-dominated sex comedies, it doesn't hide the fact that there is a very predictable plot at the core of this mess, and that there is very little to admire or even enjoy about this experience.

The film becomes a struggle between Annie and Helen for Lillian's favouritism, but it is really incredible to believe that Lillian would befriend such an unlikable person and someone of such over-the-top perfection. Most of the conflict ensues because of Annie's insecurity about their friendship, but it is so hard to make sense of the repercussions of having these two opposing women pitted against one another. The other three bridesmaids are all stereotypical supporting characters haphazardly thrown together. Ellie Kemper and Wendy McLendon-Covey are forgotten about following the half way, but they added little anyway. Megan is given scraps of screen time, and while Melissa McCarthy makes the most of it, I found it impossible to separate her from Zach Galifianakas' character in The Hangover. The hits were hilarious, the misses cringe-worthy. Luckily there were a few major hits on McCarthy's part. The part I laughed at the most, was actually when Megan drove past in the car full of dogs. Yep.

John Hamm, already in contention for the worst cameo appearance of the year (Sucker Punch), returns with another one. The most watchable moments of the film, for me, were the scenes between Wiig and O'Dowd (The IT Crowd). O'Dowd brought a charm and charisma to the film that none of the women possessed, and he and Wiig shared quite a good chemistry. While there are some inspired moments, some 'fleeting' hilarities and some bold risks taken to place these women in disgusting and embarrassing situations and challenge the dominant masculinity of the genre, I just could not get caught up in the fun. Perhaps there is something wrong with me, perhaps I didn't 'get' the humour, but I just wanted Bridesmaids to end.

My Rating: 2 Stars (C-)


  1. It appears you and I are in the minority on this one Andy. Good review.

  2. So it seems, my friend. Thanks for reading!

  3. While I found most of the comedic set-ups hit their mark (besides the overlong plane scene),I agree that the unpleasant nature of these women is where Bridesmaids falters. Initially, it worked in the film's favour because we're invited to laugh at them, but as soon as we're supposed to feel sorry for them, the movie lost me too. It's a Hollywood screenwriting trait that irritates me to no end.

  4. Interesting review, I had little interest in this one to start with as these kind of "gross out" comedies aren't really my cup of tea...
    Glad to hear I wasn't missing out on much.

    By the way, I like the new blog template a lot, it's a definite improvement!

  5. @ Anders - Yeah, I thought most of the lengthy comedy sets were far too long, except perhaps the dress fitting scene, which did hit the mark. But i just found the whole dramatic arc so predictable, the characters so unlikable, and the entire film aggravating to watch. Not what I expected.

    @ Jack L - Yeah, I can't say I recommend it. Thanks for the comment re: layout. After some of the feedback on the LAMB, I thought i'd make some changes! I like it a lot.